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Bottas setting the pace in Monza practice © POOL/AFP Miguel MEDINA


Bottas tops Monza practice, Verstappen crashes  

MONZA, Italy, Sep 4 – Valtteri Bottas topped the times ahead of championship leader and team-mate Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes dominated Friday’s crash-hit opening Italian Grand Prix practice at Monza.

The Finn, determined to revive his fortunes and his title bid, clocked a best lap in one minute and 20.703 seconds to outpace the six-time champion by 0.245 seconds, a healthy margin on one of the fastest circuits on the Formula One calendar.

Alex Albon was third fastest, nearly eight-tenths off the leading pace, ahead of Alpha Tauri’s Daniil Kvyat and his Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen with Pierre Gasly sixth in the second Alpha Tauri.

Sergio Perez was seventh for Racing Point ahead of Lando Norris in the leading McLaren, Daniel Ricciardo of Renault and Ferrari-bound Carlos Sainz in the second McLaren.

As expected, it was a disappointing morning for Ferrari and their fans as the ‘scarlet scuderia’ and their customer teams failed to make any impact.

On a bright and warm morning in the old royal park, the two Mercedes were in dominant form in a session that began in sedate fashion, more than 20 minutes passing before Alex Albon set the first lap time for Red Bull.

The Thai driver’s time was swiftly erased, however, because he had broken track limits and former Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen took over on top for Alfa Romeo before Verstappen joined the fray.

Within minutes, he was second behind Albon at the top of the times until Hamilton went fastest only to be replaced by Bottas shortly before Verstappen crashed on the exit of the Variante Ascari.

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The Dutchman lost control as he pushed too hard, his car spinning away into the gravel and hitting the barriers. He kept it running, however, and managed to return to the pits albeit without a front wing.

This resulted in a brief red flag stoppage after which there were no further incidents or positional changes as Bottas set the pace ahead of Hamilton for the fourth opening practice session in a row.

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